Editor’s note: A previous version of this story misidentified the parents of Peter Gall, and all references to the individual names of his parents have been removed from the story. The Talisman regrets this error.
Peter Gall stood in the Warren County Justice Center courtroom on Nov. 19 — a little more than a year after shooting to death his best friend Alex Davis.
Dressed in a khaki suit with combed-back hair, Gall barely resembled the red-faced, drunken 21-year-old in the mugshot taken only hours after he fired a shotgun into Davis, killing him in the early morning hours of Sept. 3, 2017.
He also didn’t resemble the young teenager who only a few years before won his high school’s “Baby Face Award.” And at 6-foot-1, he no longer needs to bemoan his height like he did back then.
Gall appeared calm when he walked up to stand before the judge to enter a new plea: “guilty” to reckless homicide. While his initial plea was “not guilty” to second-degree manslaughter, a felony that carries a sentence of five to 10 years in prison, an agreement with the prosecution allowed him to plead guilty to the lesser charge in exchange for a recommended four-year prison sentence.
In a steady voice, he told the judge he was guilty of reckless homicide. He remained calm as the judge told him what rights he gave up if he pleaded guilty: the right to a trial by jury, the right to an appeal, the right to any further effort to determine his innocence.
It wasn’t until the closing moments of the hearing, when he asked the judge if he could make a statement.
Then the emotion attached to the past year’s events finally poured out.
His voice broke as he said he took full responsibility for what had happened in that early morning of chaos. He hopes that one day the Davis family and his own family can forgive him, he said.
“I know that I can never undo what happened that night,” he said. “I just want you and the Davis family to know that I am really sorry, and I know there’s nothing I can say that will ever bring their son back or my best friend back.”
The events of that night in Bowling Green remain murky, even though a series of public records offer a fairly detailed account of what happened.
And what Gall was thinking when he shoved his shotgun into Alex Davis’ right hip, only he knows.
But this is clear: The two best friends spent the day drinking ahead of a WKU football game on Labor Day weekend. Although their blood-alcohol levels haven’t been released to the public, preliminary hearing testimony and Gall’s own statements make it clear both of the WKU students hung out throughout the day and into the night and got drunk.
Gall claimed that later that night after the football game, he grabbed his gun while messing around with Davis.
In his “intoxicated state,” Gall said he neglected to make sure the chamber of his double-barrel shotgun wasn’t loaded before pushing it into Davis’ hip.
The consequences of Gall’s actions were swift.
The gun went off.
Davis lay dying on the floor.
Police arrested Gall and booked him into the Warren County Regional Jail.
Davis’ death was one of more than 11,000 homicides committed in 2017 with a firearm, data from the FBI shows. Firearms were the most common weapon used in homicides that year, but shotguns, like the one used by Gall, made up only a small number of homicides committed with a firearm, accounting for only 300 of the 11,000.
But how did the lives of these two young men intersect and culminate in the death of one and the arrest of the other?
Davis and Gall’s paths didn’t cross until they came to WKU in fall 2014.
Claire Storms, a former girlfriend of Davis, said Gall and Davis met when they were both pledges of the Sigma Chi fraternity. While Davis remained an active member until his death, Gall dropped out after just a semester. But the two remained friends, living together their junior year of college and keeping in touch after they found other roommates for their senior year.
The two grew up about 100 miles away from each other, with Davis in Corbin and Gall in Frankfort.
Davis was born Kenneth “Alex” Davis on March 27, 1996, to Kenny and Erika Davis, the oldest of their two children. He grew up alongside his sister Emily, spending his time skiing with his dad or wakeboarding on the lake. The Davis family declined to be interviewed for this piece.
At a young age, Davis began focusing on golf, practicing on the local golf course. Golf is what brought Davis into Brad Harris’ life.
Harris began coaching Davis in middle school and remained his coach for four years when Davis played for Corbin High School. Harris knew Davis and his family before he began coaching Davis, so he was able to watch Davis grow through the years.
“He was a fun-loving guy; he enjoyed life,” Harris said. “I’m not just saying these things just because of the situation… He was always happy, laughing, joking — joking around. He was very likable by everyone.”
Happy and fun became a common theme among those who knew Davis.
“I can’t remember a time when he was not in a good mood, when he was mad or really upset with anybody,” said Connor Maguet, Davis’ teammate on the Corbin High School golf team.
Maguet recalled specifically when the golf team went on the road for a tournament. They were driving next to a car in which the driver was texting. Davis rolled down his window and yelled, “Don’t text and drive.”
“That was really funny,” Maguet said with a laugh. “My coach got onto him for that.”
But Harris and Maguet both said Davis was more than a funny guy to them.
For Maguet, Davis was his lifeline when he transitioned from being homeschooled to attending a public school in the eighth grade. Maguet said Davis was one of only two people he knew when he started school, and it was Davis who introduced Maguet to the students who would later become his friends.
“He knew everybody, and everybody liked him,” Maguet said. “So, I just kind of stuck close and made a lot of good friends because of him.”
For Harris, Davis was “always clutch,” the type of player he could depend on if he wanted a consistent scorer or someone who would remain level-headed during a match.
He said Davis was one of the better players on the team, and he helped lead Corbin High School to several regional championships during his high school years.
Harris said he thinks of Davis often, and he remembers more than just his golf game.
“As good a golfer he was, he was a better person,” Harris said. “I know that’s kind of a cliché that sometimes people say, but he really was just a great guy.”
Storms, a WKU junior, considered Davis a pretty great guy, too.
She became friends with Davis in high school, and they began dating her senior year at Corbin High School, when he was a sophomore at WKU. Although they broke up in May 2017, Storms said they remained friends.
Storms remembers seeing Davis in high school before they became friends. He stood out to her because he was tall and always wore a different pair of colorful khaki shorts, she said.
“I was like, ‘How many pairs of shorts does this guy have? They’re all different colors,’” she said laughing.
Storms said family was an important part of Davis’ life.
When he came to college, he called his mom almost every day, and he often talked about his grandmother. Every winter Davis and his dad would take a trip out West to go skiing. Storms said it was something they did since Davis was young.
“In everything that he did, I felt like he wanted to make his family proud,” she said. “He just loved his dad and his mom.”
People willingly talked about Davis but not so with Gall, and his family didn’t respond to interview requests.
He was born Peter Glenn Gall V on July 19, 1996. He lived in Frankfort where he attended Western Hills High School and, like Davis, played golf. His friends called him “Petey.”
Pictures from his high school yearbooks show a pale, blonde boy with a boyish grin. In most of the pictures, he’s joking around, making a funny face and goofing off for the camera.
Like many middle school students who became teenagers during Facebook’s rising popularity, Gall charted his life through Facebook posts. Scrolling through them reads like a stream of consciousness — almost as if whatever he thought, he posted.
At times he bemoaned his height. At other times, he complained about not having a girlfriend. A constant theme of boredom runs through his posts.
One post stands out.
On Jan. 9, 2011, he posted about ordering wristbands in honor of Trista Shoemaker, a Western Hills High School junior killed on Jan. 8, 2011.
He posted later that he would buy 150 wristbands with a $200 Visa gift card he received for Christmas. Buying the wristbands would be a better way to use the gift card, rather than spending it “on something stupid,” he posted.
But later he posted the card didn’t work, and he couldn’t buy the wristbands.
Gall used public Facebook posts until 2011, and then he switched to Twitter — first as @Tenaciouspeter, where he tweeted more than 9,000 times, and then as @tenaciouspeej, where he tweeted more than 700 times.
While his Facebook posts focused on updates on his life, his tweets featured a passive-aggressive signature with the ever-present theme of boredom.
You just randomly stopped texting me or anything? Lol #huh?
He posted that one year before he started school at WKU.
Storms said Gall spent a lot of time partying while at college, and although Davis attended parties, too, she said Gall tended to prioritize partying over studying, unlike Davis, who started as a pre-medicine student.
“Alex liked to have fun, but had his priorities straight,” she said. “He would do what needed to be done, and then if he had the time to do fun, he would do it.”
Where she talked comfortably about Davis, Storms spoke haltingly about Gall.
She dated Davis when he lived with Gall during Davis’ junior year — a year before he was shot. She never saw a gun when Gall lived with Davis. And although Gall became a close friend with Davis, Storms and Gall weren’t close friends, she said.
No one wants to be on the receiving end of a double-barrel shotgun fired at point-blank range. Dean Hazen, a former law enforcement officer who owns The Gun Experts, a gun shop in Urbana, Illinois, said although it’s possible to survive such a wound, the victim will never be the same.
“You’re probably going to be getting a hip replacement,” Hazen said. “Your pelvis is going to be damaged if it doesn’t hit any main arteries and cause you to bleed out. It’s certainly going to be a life-changing event.”
Alan Simpson, Gall’s defense attorney, said he didn’t know the manufacturer and model of the shotgun or where Gall got it, but he did confirm the gun used in the shooting was Gall’s. The shotgun was a 12-gauge, double-barrel, over-under shotgun, the search warrant affidavit shows, although the manufacturer and model weren’t listed.
Hazen said shotguns can use either slugs or some type of shot. When shot is used — like it was with Gall’s gun — when the gun is fired, pellets discharged from the gun spread out as they move farther away from the barrel. Hazen said this is useful for moving targets, such as ducks, because the goal is for a few of the pellets to hit the target. When bird hunting, hitting the bird with just a few pellets is enough to knock it out of the sky.
Melissa Wartak, a detective with the Bowling Green Police Department, testified during the preliminary hearing that there had been no “spread” in Davis’ wound. Hazen said no spread from the pellets means the gun was fired at point-blank or close to point-blank range.
Gall presumably knew how to handle guns.
On July 9, 2007, the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources issued him a certificate showing he completed the Hunter Education Program. Residents must complete the program in order to hunt in Kentucky. Part of the education program focuses on the safe handling of firearms.
Ten days after he was certified, Gall got a junior hunting license, and he held four junior hunting licenses between 2007 and 2009, records from the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources website show. A picture on his Facebook page shows Gall dressed in camouflage wearing an orange hat while standing next to a similarly-dressed friend. The picture posted on Nov. 13, 2010, carried the caption: “Me and oaken hunting.”
Gall’s father held numerous hunting licenses from various states throughout the past decade, public records show.
A portion of the Hunter Education Program offered by the Kentucky department emphasizes the importance of only pointing firearms at something the person intends to shoot and carrying the firearm in a safe manner — with the finger off the trigger. None of the police or court documents available to the public have addressed whether or not Gall touched trigger when the gun discharged.
Hazen is not familiar with Gall’s case, but he said a gun generally will not discharge unless the person pulls the trigger. He said in some cases with old guns, the hammer on the gun rests next to the firing pin, and if dropped, the gun may discharge.
“But it would take a pretty good jolt,” he said. “Like you’d have to slam it or drop it on the ground.”
Hazen said it would be “extraordinarily unlikely” for the gun to discharge without someone pulling the trigger.
“Poking somebody in the hip is not going to make it go off,” he said. “You’d have to have your finger on the trigger, unless there was some freak mechanical error with the gun.”
The shooting wasn’t the first brush with the law for Davis or Gall.
But Davis’ interactions with law enforcement had been limited to offenses such as disregarding a traffic light, records obtained through the Kentucky Administrative Office of the Courts show. Gall’s had been more serious: two offenses of alcohol intoxication in a public place.
Gall’s charges stemmed from an incident on Aug. 5, 2016, in Richmond. Around 1:20 a.m., an officer with the Richmond Police Department responded to a call at a house on Hampton Way regarding a stranger beating on the occupant’s front door, a police report states. The officer found Gall passed out on the front porch. Gall told the officer he “was way too drunk and had way too much to drink,” the report states.
The officer arrested Gall, and he was released later that day, Madison County Court records show. In order to have the charges dismissed, Gall completed the Madison County Attorney Underage Drinking Prevention Program. The case was dismissed on Dec. 6, 2016, when Gall completed the course, court records show.
However, before the court dismissed the case, Gall was involved in a fight on Sept. 17, 2016, that left his friend Cory Johnson in critical condition with a severe head injury.
At 1:53 a.m., officers responded to the fight on Center Street near the Sigma Nu fraternity house and the Hyatt Place Bowling Green hotel. The police report states Gall told officers he and Johnson were both intoxicated while walking down the street near the Sigma Nu house. Gall said he started “talking shit” to two men standing outside, the report states. The argument escalated, and several other men joined the fight. Johnson and Gall were knocked unconscious. Gall suffered only minor injuries.
But Johnson was flown to a medical center at the University of Kentucky, the police report states.
Gall was 20 years old at the time. It was just over a month after he was charged with two offenses of alcohol intoxication in a public place. Those charges would later be dismissed. He didn’t face any charges stemming from the fight in Bowling Green, although he had been drinking underage.
Gall’s relatively small, red folder in the Warren County Justice Center contains a sheaf of papers telling the story of the night of the shooting and the legal aftermath.
Gall and Davis spent the day before the shooting drinking ahead of WKU’s opening season 31-17 win over Eastern Kentucky University on Sept. 2, 2017. After the game, Gall and Davis went to at least one bar before returning to 1604 Kenton St., where Gall lived, said Wartak, the detective, during preliminary testimony. Both were intoxicated when they returned, she testified.
A search warrant affidavit shows Bowling Green police dispatch received a call at 12:10 a.m. on Sept. 3, 2017. The caller didn’t speak, but a call came in from the same number a minute later, and the caller, who is identified as Gall in a separate police report, told dispatch that he accidentally shot someone.
When officers arrived at the single-story house, they found Davis bleeding on the floor, the police report states. Gall told police that he and Davis got into a verbal argument, the search warrant affidavit states. In the preliminary testimony, Wartak said Gall told officers he and Davis had been messing around during the night “all in good fun,” and then it escalated.
Witnesses told police no fight or physical violence occurred. But Gall went to his bedroom to retrieve his shotgun, and he showed the gun to Davis and then set it on the couch, where it discharged, the search warrant affidavit states.
But later, Gall told officers that he poked the gun into Davis’ right hip area. It has never been clear why Gall initially lied, but the gun was pushed into Davis’ right hip, the preliminary testimony shows.
Gall later told a police officer he kept his gun loaded for “home protection,” Wartak testified.
Officers who responded said Gall was outside the house in the driveway when officers arrived, a separate police report shows. One officer remained outside while the other officers went inside to aid Davis. During that time, Gall attempted to call his mother and father, neither of whom answered. He then called his girlfriend, who answered. The violation time is listed in the police report as 12:09 a.m.
By 2 a.m., police arrested Gall and booked him into the Warren County Regional Jail around 5:45 a.m., court documents show. Alcohol is listed as being involved in the incident, the police report shows. Police also found a bong, a torch lighter and some plastic bags in a room adjoining where Davis was shot, records show.
Wartak said multiple people were in the house, and at least two people — also under the influence of alcohol — saw the shooting. She said Gall put his shotgun back in his room before police arrived.
Davis’ death records remain closed to the public, but he was alive while transported from the scene to The Medical Center in Bowling Green, the Kentucky Incident Based Report provided by the police shows. Wartak said Davis was put in a helicopter for transport to Nashville, but he died in the helicopter. His cause of death has not been officially released, but he likely bled to death, preliminary testimony shows.
“The gunshot wound to the leg, it severed multiple arteries, and there was obviously a lot of blood that flows through there,” Wartak said in the preliminary testimony. “He bled out pretty quickly.”
Gall stayed in jail until Sept. 8, when he was released on $100,000 cash bond. The conditions of his bond included not consuming alcohol or illegal drugs, not possessing weapons and not contacting the victim’s family, directly or indirectly.
A grand jury indicted Gall on Nov. 8, almost two months after the shooting. He was charged with manslaughter second degree “when he wantonly caused the death of Kenneth Davis,” the indictment states.
In November 2018, a year after his indictment, Gall again stood before the judge to enter a new plea after agreeing to a plea bargain with the prosecution. His sentencing has been scheduled for Jan. 22, 2019.
Meanwhile, Gall’s best friend is dead.
Gall’s shotgun remains in evidence.
And a day and night of drinking forever changed Gall’s life.
“(Petey) was very just, I feel like, careless sometimes,” Storms said. “Which is OK — to an extent.”
Editor’s note: This story originally appeared on RE(a)D, a digital magazine of the journalism department of WKU’s School of Journalism and Broadcasting.